Slavoj Zizek: What is the Parallax View?

The basic idea of the parallax view is that the very act of bracketing off produces its object – ‘democracy’ as a form emerges only when one brackets off the texture of economic relations as well as the inherent logic of the political state apparatus; they both have to be abstracted from people who are effectively embedded in economic processes and subjected to state apparatuses. The same goes also for the ‘logic of domination’, the way people are controlled/manipulated by the apparatuses of subjection: in order to clearly discern these mechanisms of power, one has to be abstracted not only from the democratic imaginary (as Foucault does in his analyses of the micro-physics of power, but also as Lacan does in his analysis of power in Seminar XVII), but also from the process of economic (re)production. And, finally, the specific sphere of economic (re)production only emerges if one methodologically brackets off the concrete existence of state and political ideology – no wonder critics of Marx complained that Marx’s ‘critique of political economy’ lacks a theory of power and state. And, of course, the trap to be avoided here is precisely the naïve idea that one should keep in view the social totality (parts of which are democratic ideology, the exercise of power and the process of economic (re)production): if one tries to keep the whole in view, one ends up seeing nothing, the contours disappear. This bracketing off is not only epistemological, but it concerns what Marx called the ‘real abstraction’: the abstraction from power and economic relations that is inscribed into the very actuality of the democratic process.

– Slavoj Zizek, Interrogating the Real

5 thoughts on “Slavoj Zizek: What is the Parallax View?

  1. how literally should we take there being such ‘things’ as an “inherent logic” of a political state apparatus (or there being such a literal thing as a state apparatus) when reading Zizek? I’m afraid that he is pretty literal-minded about such things (like TiMorton) as opposed to presenting us with a sort of perspicuous familial resemblance.


  2. Now your asking several things here. One is for me to get inside Zizek’s head and think in multiple languages to understand just why he chose to use such terms as “inherent logic” and “state apparatus”. Thinking of his affiliation with Communist thought and how this was used within that context I thought of the original term from 1941 as a derogation of a Russian Apparatchik or a bureaucrat or functionary who works for the state apparatus: members of the “apparat” were frequently transferred between different areas of responsibility, usually with little or no actual training for their new areas of responsibility. Thus, the term apparatchik, or “agent of the apparatus” was usually the best possible description of the person’s profession and occupation.


    One can also to a do a cursory google on “Zizek on state apparatus” and realize he uses the term apparatus in many differing contexts. So I wouldn’t take it too literally, except as I mentioned above. One must usually think of Zizek’s terms in the Communist sense first, then one can move out from there to our own Western sense and use of those terms.

    As for “inherent logic” obviously this must be brought back to dialectics and Hegelian logics along with its use in Marxian thought (i.e., dialectical materialist thought or even Zizek’s own transcendental materialist use).

    Both of these terms show up so much in his writings that I would see them as “habits of thought” not to be taken literally, but as typified figures within his network of thought that stand in as particularized markers of thought rather than literalized discursive functions. But that would be to truly say one could get inside Zizek’s mind and speak for him, which I’ll leave to the Lacanians…


      • ‘Since improvisation is the free creation of differences, it challenges and calls for intelligibility. These differences in intelligibility are a source of discomfort’.

        I like this a lot. I’m tentatively starting to think of causality/determinism as a kind of improvisation (I already think of space as choreographic, so I’m more taking this from dance than music). This is an intelligibility riven to sensibility…


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